Definition of fumble in US English:



[no object]
  • 1Use the hands clumsily while doing or handling something.

    ‘she fumbled with the lock’
    1. 1.1fumble around/about Move clumsily in various directions using the hands to find one's way.
      ‘Greg fumbled around in the closet and found his black jacket’
    2. 1.2with object Use the hands clumsily to move (something) as specified.
      ‘she fumbled a cigarette from her bag’
    3. 1.3American Football with object Drop or lose control of (the ball), sometimes causing a turnover.
      ‘he seldom fumbled a ball’
    4. 1.4with object (in other ball games) fail to catch or field (the ball, a pass, a shot, etc.) cleanly.
    5. 1.5 Express oneself or deal with something clumsily or nervously.
      ‘asked for explanations, Michael had fumbled for words’


  • 1usually in singular An act of using the hands clumsily while doing or handling something.

    ‘just one fumble during a tire change could separate the winners from the losers’
    1. 1.1American Football An act of dropping or losing control of the ball, sometimes causing a turnover.
      ‘his fumble was recovered on the 6-yard line’
    2. 1.2 (in other ball games) an act of failing to catch or field the ball cleanly.
    3. 1.3 An act of managing or dealing with something clumsily.
      ‘we are not talking about subtle errors of judgment, but major fumbles’


Late Middle English: from Low German fommeln or Dutch fommelen.